The annual celebrations for Our Lady Help of Christians at St Thomas More parish in Manor House, north London were particularly memorable this year for two reasons: Bishop Alan Hopes, who was the chief celebrant gave a beautiful homily on Our Lady - and a glowering grey sky which had caused torrential downpours all weekend, cleared as the flower-decked statue of Our Lady was carried in procession through the streets of Manor House to the Ursuline Convent where an open-air reception was held. Three new members: Akora Eva, Ingrid Bowie and Auxilia Rufungura were enrolled in the Association of Mary, Help of Christians. Extracts from Bishop Hope's homily follow. Whilst he hangs on the Cross, Jesus places his Mother into the care of the disciple, John: Woman this is your son. But first, Jesus places his disciple into the care of his Mother: This is your Mother. In these few words, Jesus has given us, in Mary, a spiritual Mother, She is the Mother of the Church - for Jesus has placed his Church under her special protection. At the foot of the Cross, Mary herself is a symbol of the Church. In spite of what looked like a disaster and the end of everything, she continues to look to the future, to the final victory over evil, never giving up hope, always trusting in her Son. We, the Church, profess and proclaim the same hope: that in spite of all the hard struggles, the sufferings and failures that we have to undergo in this life, these will see as nothing when God's glory is revealed to us at the end of time. Today we are going to make a journey with Mary, the help of all Christians. The statue of Mary, which we will carry in our midst, is like an Icon - it takes us beyond what we can physically see to the reality which we can only see with the eye of faith - it gives us a glimpse into the glory of heaven and in particular the heavenly glory of Mary. Our journey with this statue of Mary is both a joyful celebration and a great act of witness. It is a joyful celebration of our Christian life - which is a journey in Christ's presence with Christ's people. It is a great act of witness that we are journeying towards God's glorious kingdom in sure and certain hope of the final victory with our risen Lord. On our journey we are strengthened in our faith and in our hope by the love and prayers and examples of our brothers and sisters and those of that great band of Christian witnesses, the saints from eh last two thousands years, whoa lso accompany us on our pilgrim journey. First among these witnesses who journey with us is Mary - for, not only is she the Mother of the Church, but she is also the first disciple of her Son, the first Christian woman. She prays for us as she journeys with us and always pointing us to her Son. For from her own journey as a a disciple of Jesus she will teach us to listen and to respond to Him with obedience, faith, love, generosity and constancy. She will teach us to serve Jesus in one another. She will teach us how to reflect on our lives in the light of our faith in Him. About all she will teach us also to keep out gaze fixed on her Son, Jesus as we make our journey through life. Mary, filled with God from the moment of her conception, is taken into heaven at the end of her pilgrim journey, to share the fruits of her Son's death and resurrection. In her we see our own journey and all our hopes fulfilled. Mary teaches us to keep our gaze fixed on that journey's end - on the things of eternity. She teaches us that we must never allow anything to blind our vision: for only then shall we come to share in the glory of heaven and see God as he truly is - a vision which she already enjoys.
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